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We’ve Read the Script for Steven Spielberg’s Untitled Alien Invasion Project for TNT

In a new Discovery Channel documentary that aired over the weekend, Stephen Hawking posited that aliens probably exist and if they ever came to Earth they would zap us all and steal away with our natural resources. This is terrific news for Steven Spielberg and TNT, who are currently working on a new hour-long action-drama in which that very thing happens, and they probably appreciate the free marketing. Untitled Alien Invasion Project, set to debut in 2011, will star Noah Wyle in his first major post-E.R. role and revolve around a group of scrappy earthlings fighting for their lives against occupying aliens — and Vulture's read the script for the pilot. Minor spoilers ahead!

In UAIP, Earth's armies have been defeated by imperialistic space creatures, leaving only a loose network of human resistance soldiers. The primary action centers on Tom Mason (Wyle), a haggard fortysomething widower, and his two sons, 16-year-old Hal and 8-year-old Matt (Maxim Knight). The pilot ("Live and Learn"), written by Robert Rodat (Saving Private Ryan), begins with Tom and Hal sprinting through the streets of alien-ravaged Boston, caught in the crossfire of a battle between humans and extraterrestrials, dodging alien hovercrafts, "mechs" (walking vehicles that patrol the streets, shooting people), and "skitters" (these seem to be dog-size insectlike aliens).

So Untitled is a bleaker, longer-form version of Spielberg's War of the Worlds that also smells a bit like The Road and the Terminator movies. Future episodes will presumably follow Tom and Co. as they hunt for more food, liberate alien-captured humans, and battle angry green men, with plenty of opportunities to showcase Spielberg's trademark flair for putting kids in peril. Since so much of the pilot script is action-based, it's hard to tell exactly how it will look onscreen, but with the talent and money involved (along with the fact that this thing will be on dirty basic cable), we have high hopes.

Other characters of note: Anne (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles' Moon Bloodgood, no stranger to post-apocalypses), a psychologist who attends to human refugees, a love interest for Tom, and a surrogate mom to Hal and Matt; Weaver, the hard-ass leader of Tom's group who has lost his own family; Karen (Jessy Schram), Hal's sorta girlfriend with whom he rides ahead of the main group as a motorcycle scout; and Lourdes (Weeds' Seychelle Gabriel), a pretty orphan with a crush on Hal.

So Untitled is a bleaker, longer-form version of Spielberg's War of the Worlds that also smells a bit like The Road and the Terminator movies. Future episodes will presumably follow Tom and Co. as they hunt for more food, liberate alien-captured humans, and battle angry green men, with plenty of opportunities to showcase Spielberg's trademark flair for putting kids in peril. Since so much of the pilot script is action-based, it's hard to tell exactly how it will look onscreen, but with the talent and money involved (along with the fact that this thing will be on dirty basic cable), we have high hopes.

Possibly problematic is the fall premiere of AMC's Vulture-anticipated The Walking Dead, about a dad leading human survivors through an America ruined by zombies instead of aliens. By the time UAIP bows in 2011, will we finally be sick of watching filthy, starving protagonists trudging between abandoned gas stations in search of supplies? Still, we like the cast, and this thing has to be better than V at least, so we're optimistic.

Photo: Getty Images